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137
BACON, FRANCIS

of seeking popularity, and was for a time excluded from the court. His letter to Burghley,[1] who had told him of the queen's displeasure with his speech, offers no apology for what he had said, but expresses regret that his motives should have been misunderstood. He soon felt that the queen's anger was not to be appeased by such a justification. The attorney-generalship had fallen vacant and Bacon became a candidate for the office, his most formidable rival being his life-long antagonist, Edward Coke, who was then solicitor. Essex warmly espoused Bacon's cause and earnestly pressed his claims upon the queen; but his impetuous, pettish pleading tended to retard the cause. Burghley, on the other hand, in no way promoted his nephew's interest; he would recommend him for the solicitorship, but not for the attorney-generalship; and it is not improbable that Sir Robert Cecil secretly used his influence against his cousin. The queen delayed the appointment, and Bacon's fortunes, as they then stood, could ill brook delay. He was harassed with debt and at times so disheartened that he contemplated retirement from public life. In March 1594 it was at last understood that Coke was to be attorney-general. Essex, though bitterly mortified, at once threw all his energies into the endeavour to procure for Bacon the solicitorship; but in this case also, his method of dealing, which was wholly opposed to Bacon's advice,[2] seemed to irritate the queen. The old offence was not yet forgiven, and after a tedious delay, the office was given, in October 1595, to Serjeant Thomas Fleming. Burghley and Sir John Puckering seem to have assisted Bacon honestly, if not over-warmly, in this second application; but the conduct of Cecil had roused suspicions which were not perhaps without foundation. Essex, to compensate in some degree for Bacon's disappointment, insisted on presenting him with a piece of land, worth about £1800, and situated probably near Twickenham Park. Nor did his kindness cease there; before sailing on the expedition to Cadiz, in the beginning of 1596, he addressed letters to Buckhurst, Fortescue and Egerton, earnestly requesting them to use their influence towards procuring for Bacon the vacant office of master of the rolls. Before anything came of this application, the Cadiz expedition had resulted in a brilliant success, and Essex became the idol of the army and the people. Bacon saw clearly that such a reputation would assuredly alienate the affections of the queen, who loved not to have a subject too powerful or too popular. He therefore addressed an eloquent and imploring letter to the earl, pointing out the dangers of his position and urging upon him what he judged to be the only safe course of action, to seek and secure the favour of the queen alone; above all things dissuading him from the appearance of military popularity. His advice, however, was unpalatable and proved ineffectual. The earl still continued his usual course of dealing with the queen, depending solely upon her supposed affection for him, and insanely jealous of any other whom she might seem to favour. His unskilful and unlucky management of the sea expedition to Ferrol and the Azores in no way lowered his popularity with the people, but undoubtedly weakened his influence with the queen.

Bacon's affairs in the meantime had not been prospering. He had increased his reputation by the publication in 1597 of his Essays, along with which were the Colours of Good and Evil and the Meditationes Sacrae; but his private fortunes were in a bad condition. No public office apparently could be found for him; a scheme for retrieving his position by a marriage with the wealthy widow, Lady Elizabeth Hatton, failed, and in 1598 he was arrested for debt. He seems, however, to have been growing in favour with the queen. Some years previously (perhaps about 1594), he had begun to be employed by her in crown affairs, and he gradually acquired the standing of one of the learned counsel, though he had no commission or warrant, and received no salary. At the same time he was no longer on the former friendly terms with Essex, a certain estrangement having sprung up between them, caused no doubt by the earl's dislike of his friend's advice. The earl's affairs were then at a somewhat critical stage, and as our judgment upon a most important episode in Bacon's life depends upon our knowledge of the events of the ensuing year, it will be requisite to enter somewhat minutely into proceedings with which Bacon himself had nothing to do.

Ireland was then in a rebellious and discontented condition, and it was difficult for the English government to decide either on a definite course of policy with regard to it, or on a leader by whom that policy might be carried out. A violent quarrel took place between the queen and Essex, who for some months retired from court and refused to be reconciled. At last he came forth from his seclusion, and it was soon understood that he was in person to undertake the subjugation of the rebels in Ireland, with a larger force than had ever before been sent into that country. Into the obscure details of this unhappy campaign it is unnecessary to enter; one fact stands out clearly, that Essex endeavoured to carry out a treasonable design. His jealousy and ill-temper had been so roused that the only course open to him seemed to be the obtaining a powerful military force, the possession of which would compel the queen to reinstate him in her favour. Whether or not this plan was in contemplation before he undertook the Irish expedition is not evident, though even outsiders at that time entertained some suspicions, but there can be no doubt of the treasonable character of the negotiations carried on in Ireland. His plans, probably not very definite, were disturbed by an imperative message from the queen, ordering him not to return to England without her permission. He at once set off, and, trusting apparently to her affection for him, presented himself suddenly before her. He was, for the moment, received kindly, but was soon afterwards ordered to keep his chamber, and was then given into the custody of the lord keeper at York House, where he remained till March 1600. His great popularity, and the general ignorance of the reasons for his imprisonment, stirred up a strong feeling against the queen, who was reported to be influenced by Bacon, and such indignation was raised against the latter that his friends feared his life would be in danger. It was at last felt necessary that the queen should in some way vindicate her proceedings, and this she at first did, contrary to Bacon's advice, by a declaration from the Star Chamber. This, however, gave little or no satisfaction, and it was found expedient to do what Bacon had always recommended, to have a fair trial, yet not one in which the sentence must needs be damaging to the earl. The trial accordingly took place before a body of her majesty's councillors, and Bacon had a subordinate and unimportant part in the accusation. Essex does not seem to have been at all hurt by his action in this matter, and shortly after his release they were again on friendly terms, Bacon drawing up letters as if to or from the earl with the design of having them brought before the queen. But Bacon did not know the true character of the transactions in which Essex had been engaged. The latter had been released from all custody in August, but in the meantime he had been busily engaged in treasonable correspondence with James of Scotland, and was counting on the Irish army under his ally, Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy (afterwards earl of Devonshire), the new deputy. But Mountjoy had apparently come to see how useless the attempt would be to force upon the queen a settlement of the succession and declined to go farther in the matter. Essex was thus thrown upon his own resources, and his anger against the queen being roused afresh by the refusal to renew his monopoly of sweet wines, he formed the desperate project of seizing her person and compelling her to dismiss from her council his enemies Raleigh, Cobham, and Cecil. As some pretext, he intended to affirm that his life was in danger from these men, who were in league with the Spaniards. The plot was forced on prematurely by the suspicions excited at court, and the rash attempt to rouse the city of London (8th of February 1601), proved a complete fiasco. The leaders were arrested that night and thrown into prison. Although the actual rising might have appeared a mere outburst of frantic passion, the private examinations of the most prominent

  1. Spedding, Letters and Life, i. 234-235, cf. i. 362. This letter, with those to Puckering or Essex and the queen, i. 240-241, should be compared with what is said of them by Macaulay in his Essay on Bacon, and by Campbell, Lives, ii. 287.
  2. See Letters and Life, i. 289, ii. 34.